One of the greatest barriers to having critical discussion with many religious believers — from my experience — is the meme that applying skepticism to religious ideas is rude, offensive, intolerant, and hateful. Rather than defending ideas or simply exiting the discussion, various theists have objected to the discussion taking place and heaped abuse on the skeptic.
Around the ‘atheist blogosphere’ and throughout the skeptic community, open discussion of ideas is a very important tool which ought to lead, in optimal situations, to reaching justified true belief. In many cases, those who hold cherished ideas are often expected to consider objections and be able to adequately respond to them (or otherwise relinquish their beliefs). Rather than objecting to discussion taking place and labeling interlocutors as horrible people for voicing criticism — like some theists do — many in the atheist/skeptic community have honest discussions.
Sadly, some within the blogging network Freethought Blogs — when considering people identifying as Men’s Rights Activists or those otherwise applying skepticism to feminist thought including ‘rape culture,’ ‘patriarchy,’ ‘mansplaining,’ or ‘male privilege’ — behave worse than many theists I have met and decribed above. Rather than entertaining discussion, various commenters on the network (and the bloggers themselves) label their detractors as bigots, sexists, ‘hyperskeptical,’ misogynists, chill girls, etc. and engage in campaigns of villification and character attacks against those who dare to voice skepticism.
More recently, some bloggers from the Freethought Blogs network have taken an extra step and equated those who criticize feminist thought with mass-murderers. PZ Myers — after discussing the Montreal Massacre in which a gunman named Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women after shouting “I hate feminists!” — wrote, “anonymous monsters on the internet who shriek affrontedly about women and feminists and moan that any feminist allies are ‘manginas’ — to me, every one of them has the name Marc Lepine, and is just hiding it in shame and fear and hatred and cowardice.”
Another writer on Freethought Blogs, Taslima Nasreen — not realizing that criticism of ideas is much different than ‘hatred of women’ — in a post titled “Feminism is hated because women are hated,” writes,
…in many parts of the world hundreds of women-haters still harass, exploit, torture, rape and kill hundreds of women everyday. Women get abused physically, mentally, emotionally everyday. […] Today’s Marc Lepines do not kill themselves after killing women. They organize themselves to spread lies about women. They are Men’s Rights Activists […] Today’s Marc Lepines are much bigger haters, they are cleverer, and more dangerous than Canada’s lone Marc Lepine.
In both Myers’ and Nasreen’s writings, not one example is provided of what they consider to be so repugnant. It is just simply assumed to be the case that people who offer criticism of feminist claims are just as bad — or perhaps even worse (in the case of Nasreen’s thought) — as a person who murders 14 people. Even if it is the case that anonymous people on the internet say nasty things about women, they certainly aren’t — as far as I know — committing mass murder.
Theists who object to criticism of religion on grounds that discussion is offensive or indicative of hatred are similar to people like Myers and Nasreen who conflate criticism with hatred and even go so far to say, as it seems from their writings, that criticism of feminist thought is worse than or equivalent to mass murder. Myers and Nasreen, though, are in worse positions than the theists. It’s quite easy, after all, to avoid discussions altogether and brand people who express differing ideas as worse than or equivalent to mass murderers.